How To Make Fresh Cranberry Relish

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I know using fresh cranberries may sound a bit… well, tart, but bear with me.

Honestly, I didn’t know you could eat fresh cranberries until I was an adult. After all, it’s not like you take them out of the bag and pop them in your mouth. At least I don’t. Yes, I now know you can eat them raw and that there are those with, shall we say, different taste buds that are happy to eat them fresh.

My husband being one of those people, it’s no surprise that he likes fresh cranberry salad or relish. His mom made it every year for him at Thanksgiving. When she was alive she would drop by and casually drop off a bowl. She always made extra for him.

I never paid much attention, since I preferred cranberry sauce and I was busy with 3 kids under 5. I learned a lot from my husband’s mother – I learned how to sew and garden from her, but I never learned how to make her cranberry relish.

Life being what it is I had not thought about one of my husband’s favorite Thanksgiving treats in a few years. Then this year while planning out Thanksgiving dinner with my youngest son (the chef in the family), I went to pull the recipe from my recipe book only to discover I didn’t have it.

A sinking feeling came over me. You know that feeling when you’ve lost something valuable – your purse, your wedding ring, a family recipe…

The only way I can handle things like that is to find a way to make it better, try to fix it, even if it will never be EXACTLY the same.

So with my budding chef, I set out to recreate the recipe. I put together a list of things. Once we had gathered everything, then the mixing, blending, and taste testing began.

I thought it would take weeks, but really it only took a few hours. Turns out my “taste” memory is better than most of my other memory. And so we carefully wrote down the recipe. I put it in the handwritten recipe book that my son and I share when we find a keeper. And for a little extra assurance, I’m sharing it with you. You’ll write it down just in case, won’t you?

Cranberry Relish Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 2 medium oranges or 4 mandarins
  • 2 medium granny smith apples
  • 2 inches (or a little more) ginger
  • 1 ½ cup pineapple
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (and a few halves for garnish)


Be sure to wash your cranberries.


I love fresh pineapple and this pineapple corer makes it so easy to remove the skin.


See, perfect rings! For this recipe, we’re going to chop up the pineapple, but you can use the rest of the pineapple rings to decorate (as a garnish) another recipe.


Granny Smith apples go best in this recipe but you can use any kind of apples you have on hand.


If you don’t have fresh ginger you can always use a little ginger powder.


You can use mandarins instead of oranges. I seem to always have them on hand this time of year, and I’m a big fan of using what I have in the kitchen at the moment.


Those colors are amazing.


Be sure to only pulse your food processor, because you want to keep some of the texture of the fruit.


Place all ingredients into a food processor or high powered blender and pulse until relish is formed. Mix in pecans and use halves for garnish.

If you can, refrigerate the relish for at least a day – the cranberry flavor will start to come through a little bit more.


Do you have a recipe you treasure?

  • THANK You Jennifer👍❤️!!! AWESOME Recipe!! WE didn’t HAVE Any Relish At Thanksgiving 😢 BUMMER 👎 VERY COOL ! AND I LOVE IT And Cranberry Juice (REAL) !!! Lolo Not Cranberry drink. I WILL TRY THIS!! GOING to make Your Ginger Sugar 👍👍👍❤️

  • RickA says:

    Hi Jennifer,
    Cranberry Relish was always on our Thanksgiving and Christmas Tables. As all my elders are gone, several years ago I too had to recreate the recipe. Being lazy last week I made this using a food processor just for me. This satisfied my need, but I knew the texture was not going to be quite right. I had served the food processor version to the family a few years ago and they were disappointed with the texture and heard about it for a year. I learned my lesson. To get the texture right (for my family) I must hand grind all the stuff using a small meat grinder. I used the term lazy above, as when 36 ounces of berries are hand processed there is cranberry juice everywhere, down the cabinet on the floor and on me. Clean up is a chore. For now, if I am making this for me I will be lazy and ignore the texture. But for the family, I will get out the hand grinder and deal with the mess. The family can be harsh at times.

    Thank you for your version of this holiday classic.


    • Claire says:

      I have to agree that a meat grinder makes the texture so much better. I don’t use anything but sugar, oranges and cranberries – the recipe that used to be on the bag – which is what my mother made every Thanksgiving. She always made enough to have some left for Christmas. I make it now for one of my brothers and myself. I always take a jar full to my brother at Thanksgiving. (I talked to him this morning and he mentioned how much he appreciates it.) I may have to experiment with this version because I really love ginger.

  • Catherine says:

    Nice recipe Jennifer. After moving to Arizona many years ago I felt the need to add something southwest to the traditional Turkey dinners I always made and found some really nice Cranberry Salsa recipes. You can choose to use both cranberries and tomatoes, it is a choice and depending on folks heat tolerance either sweet or hot peppers – the cilantro pairs nicely with the cranberries. Just use your favorite salsa recipe and add cranberries. 🙂

  • Sue Bottom says:

    Thanks. everything looks and sounds delicious.

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